Third statement from National Boards and Ahpra

03 Apr 2020

As we continue to face the biggest public health challenge of our lives, responding to the COVID-19 pandemic will test our health system and each of us like nothing before it.

While many are caring for sick and frightened patients, some of us will face our own illness and need to care for our families and loved ones. Some of us will be called on to work in unfamiliar situations where our knowledge and experience are needed most.

Professional judgement will be critical to guide us when resources are limited and demand intense.

The Board and Ahpra understand that the current national emergency presents extreme challenges and we sincerely thank you for your commitment and the care you provide. We know our regulatory approach must be modified to accommodate these exceptional circumstances.

The Board has already started to make a series of pragmatic decisions, temporarily modifying some of our regulatory requirements while maintaining patient safety. These changes are set out below. We have also published responses to questions we’ve been asked, some of which may apply to you.

Our profession has well-established behaviours and values which provide a framework for ethical decision-making in a wide range of situations. These are set out in the Board’s Code of conduct published on our website. You should continue to apply such guidance as far as is practical, recognising these are unique and challenging circumstances.

We must care for our patients and clients, ourselves and each other. In providing care the Board does not expect you to place yourself in harm’s way. Ensuring effective use of personal protective equipment and following relevant infection control requirements and public health advice is key to this.

The Board is aware some health services will be reduced or stopped, including where care cannot be provided in ways that ensure both the practitioner’s and the patient’s safety.

If you know or suspect you are infected, you should follow current public health advice including self-isolating. If you have pre-existing health conditions that increase your risk of infection, you should manage this actively, such as by discussing it with your colleagues, employer or place of work.

The Board has agreed to the following measures. We are closely monitoring the situation and may make further changes as needed.

Continuing professional development

The COVID-19 emergency is impacting on registered health practitioners’ CPD in various ways and we understand that you may have difficulty meeting CPD requirements this year as a result of cancellation of conferences and other face to face activities. However, we encourage you to continue to do CPD that is relevant to your scope of practice, where possible.

While your CPD must include a range of activities from the categories set out in the Board’s CPD guidelines and include at least five hours in an interactive setting with other practitioners, you have flexibility with regard to the content and the way you do your CPD activity.

Interactive CPD activities are any activities that involve other practitioners, such as face to face education, and this can be done through technologies that enable interaction such as Skype or videoconferencing.

Some examples of CPD activities that would not require you to meet in large gatherings or to travel include:

  • online learning and internet research
  • written reflections on experience in day-to-day clinical practice
  • reading books and journals relevant to your practice
  • quality assurance activities, such as accreditation, clinical audits or review of records
  • conducting an infection prevention and control audit of your practice using the self-audit tool published on the Board’s website, and
  • professional or interprofessional interactions such as meetings, case reviews, and clinical forums which can be done online.

While we encourage you to continue doing CPD during this time, we do not want our CPD requirements to take practitioners away from clinical care or cause additional concern to those already under extra pressure due to COVID-19. Accordingly, if you can't meet the Board’s CPD standard because of the COVID-19 emergency, then we won't take any action for the registration period during which the COVID-19 emergency is in force.

If the COVID-19 emergency resolves more quickly than expected, we may issue updated guidance about what CPD we would expect to be completed within the current registration period.

Training in CPR, management of anaphylaxis and use of an automated external defibrillator

We understand that many of you may not be able to meet the Board’s requirement to have current training in CPR, management of anaphylaxis and use of an automated external defibrillator this year as approved training organisations may not be delivering the training in the current environment. If any component of this training is not current, we encourage you to do the training as soon as practicable.

Further guidance on the Board’s CPD requirements can be found on our website.

Endorsement for scheduled medicines

We understand that it may be difficult for practitioners who are currently doing a period of supervised practice under Pathway B to attend observational clinical placements. This may have an impact on you in a number of ways depending on how long you have been in the pathway, such as completing and submitting three clinical studies for initial assessment, completing your portfolio of evidence, and/or completing your period of supervised practice within 12 months.

Completing and submitting three clinical studies for initial assessment

If you have already submitted clinical studies for initial assessment or are about to, these will continue to be assessed and feedback will be provided to you.

If you haven’t attended enough observational clinical placements to enable you to submit three clinical studies for initial assessment, we understand that you may not be able to submit more until the COVID-19 emergency resolves. However, we encourage you to continue with your learning in other ways and to develop your portfolio of evidence as much as you can.

Completing your portfolio of evidence

If you have had your clinical studies assessed, we recognise you may not be able to develop further clinical studies due to observational clinical placements not being available. This means that you may not be able to complete your portfolio of evidence, as the portfolio must include a minimum of 15 clinical studies. However, we encourage you to continue with your learning in other ways and to develop your portfolio of evidence as much as you can.

Completing your period of supervised practice

We understand that some of you may not be able to complete your period of supervised practice within 12 months due the COVID-19 emergency.

For those of you in this situation, you won’t be required to apply for an extension to complete your supervised practice. The Board is providing a three-month extension to all practitioners in Pathway B to complete their period of supervised practice.

We will monitor the situation and may review the extension period if needed.

COVID-19 health workforce

If you are already registered and have capacity to help, for example you are working part-time, taking a break or in between roles, you are also encouraged to see if you can assist. Visit the Ahpra website which has links to work opportunities in each state and territory.

Cylie Williams
Chair, Podiatry Board of Australia

Page reviewed 3/04/2020